Using the Right Knife for the Right Job: A Guide to the Kitchen Knife Block

Finding the Right Knife for the Right Job: A Guide to the Kitchen Knife Block - A Cut Above with Chef Todd
Chef Todd

Whether you are slicing fruit for a smoothie, deboning chicken for a crock pot meal or filleting fish, the knife you use in the kitchen is essential to the job you are trying to accomplish and to the efficiency level you will be achieving while preparing your food. No matter the task at hand or your ability level in the kitchen, it is incredibly important to equip yourself with the proper tools while cooking to ensure less time wasted, proper technique and increased skill, therefore helping to make you an even better cook.

Not only is proper technique important, but safety also plays a huge factor in the correct uses of cooking knives. Educating ones self on proper knife usage can save a large amount of potential kitchen related injuries and it is a sure fire way to speed up your food prep time.

So hang tight and learn how you can sharpen up on your knife skills by reading all of the tips, hints and tricks to using some of the most common knives that you probably already have available in your kitchen knife block at home.

Be sure to share this Blog throughout social media and help your friends and family members become educated on proper knife uses and their various techniques!

Using the Right Knife for the Right Job:

The Right Knife for the Right Job

Four Most Common KnivesBig Knives

The following four knives are key knives that should be in every cook’s (beginner or advanced!) kitchen. With these handy tools readily on hand, you can perform just about any cooking technique you can imagine with at least a basic level of cooking expertise. Best of all, these knives are almost always featured in a knife set, so even those who are just starting out with cooking should have at least these four available in their kitchen cutlery set.

  1. French Knife or Chef’s Knife: This is an all-purpose knife that is typically between 6 and 14 inches long and 1 ½ inches in width with a pronounced curve at the tip. This knife is used for specialty cuts, chopping cubing and dicing and has many functions from cutting meat to dicing vegetables. This makes it a wonderful tool that is great for multi-purpose uses.
  2. Paring Knife: This small all-purpose knife is between 2 1/2 and 4 inches long. It is used in prepping all kinds of fruits and vegetable. It has a shorter blade than that of the chef’s knife and it is also great for deveining shrimp and other tasks on smaller food items.
  3. Serrated Utility Knife: The blade on this knife is between 4 and 7 inches in length. It looks similar to that of a bread knife but it is much shorter and a lot more sharp. It is used for smaller slicing jobs such as a bagel or even delicate fruits or vegetables. For that reason it can also be known as a “tomato knife.” The larger version of this knife is the bread knife and we will learn more about that in the following section of cutlery items.
  4. Boning Knife: This narrow flexible blade knife is used for trimming fat and removing bones from smaller cuts of meat and fish. It is 5 to 7 inches long and it works really well for chicken cuts, while more firm blades work the best for beef cuts.

Large Kitchen KnivesLarge Kitchen Knives

These next three knives are the extra large ones that are in your kitchen cutlery set. Don’t be intimidated by them, they make tons of jobs much more simple and quicker when in the kitchen.

  1. Bread Knife: This knife is a slightly larger version of the serrated utility knife. The serrated grooves are deep and pronounced in order to cleanly slice through bread without crushing it or creating a mess. Even the handle on these knives are unique as they may have an off set placement in order to allow the holder of the knife extra space when cutting. This means the knuckles of the chef will not dent the bread while slicing and makes the cut look much more presentable and perfected.
  2. Carving Knife: A carving knife is 8 to 15 inches in length and is basically just a stretched out and more thin version of the chef’s knife. This knife is extremely sharp and not very flexible in nature. This makes it the ideal choice to allow for extra precision when slicing large dense items such as a pot roast or a similar cut of meat.
  3. Cleaver: This large and rectangular knife has a very heavy and thick blade with a narrow and very sharp edge at the end. It is used to split meat and bone together as one because the cleaver uses its weight to cut through tough food with a swift chopping motion. In addition to meat, the cleaver is also very ideal for crushing seeds or garlic. Generally this knife is used by professional chefs or in restaurants that prepare their own meat for guests. It is not usually used in most home kitchens and therefore it is not essential to have, but now you know what it is used for just in case you want to study up on your knives or practice more advanced kitchen practices!

Small Decorative KnivesSmaller Decorative Kitchen Knives

Many of these smaller knives are used for delicate cutting, slicing, peeling and trimming. They are essential tools to use as the finishing touches on meals and they are helpful when creating intricate details on dishes.

  1. Fluting Knife: The small bladed fluting knife is ideal for delicate peeling, trimming, spreading, slicing, cutting, etc. It is generally 2 to 4 inches in length and it looks like a slightly shorter pairing knife, but with a more pronounced sharper angle.
  2. Mincing Knife: This knife is meant to finely mince vegetables and herbs. It is used in a rocking motion and is very helpful for culinary professionals who create their own spices or who can quickly chop vegetables because it doesn’t need to be picked up each time a cut is made due to its swift rocking mobility.
  3. Peeling Knife: This knife is a close relative of the paring knife. It features a short blade that curves downward in a small hook fashion. It is helpful when removing skin or blemishes from the flesh of fruits and vegetables. Specifically, the knife is used to make a particular cut in root vegetables called a “tourne.” The small size of this knife makes it ideal when working with small items because it is much more safe than using a large paring knife on small produce.
  4. Trimming Knife: Trimming knives are so miniature relatives of boning knives. This knife is under 3 inches in length and is helpful with removing meat from the bone in small areas where a boning knife may not be useful. True to its name is can also be used to trim garnishes for dishes such as radish roses.

Speciality KnivesSpecialty Decorative Knives

These knives are used for specific tasks and assignments in the kitchen. There are dozens more speciality knives out there, but these three are some common ones that you may have heard of or seen before.

  1. Cheese Knives: Quite predictably, these knives are used for carving specialty cheeses. It is a very helpful tool to have out for a wine and cheese parties because the holes that are in the center of the knife help to assure the cheese won’t stick to the knife, thus making a clean cut in many soft cheeses.
  2. Decorating Knife: There are many varieties of a decorating knife. They often have zigzag blades that create foods with beautifully decorated cuts. It is used as a final tool in many food prep scenarios to garnish foods.
  3. Grapefruit Knife: This knife is long with a flat and dull blade featuring a serrated edge. Although there are other knives that also work for this task, the grapefruit knife is helpful with separating the fruit of the grapefruit from the peel. It is also helpful for other large fruits that are removed from the peeling or for discarding the pit of a fruit.

Proper Knife Storage & Safety Tips

Improper knife storage and safety can lead to injuries, so it’s important to follow the tips below when using and storing kitchen knives.

  • Keep knives sharpened: The sharper the knife the lower the chance for injury- why? Keeping your knives properly sharpened is important because dull knives need more force to use them. This means there is a greater chance of slipping and injuring yourself.
  • Keep knives clean: A clean knife is a safe knife. Clean knives right away to increase their life span between sharpening and to reduce risk of cross contamination. With that being said also never leave a sharp knife in a sink full of soapy water for fear of injury. Knives should also never be washed in the dishwasher. The force of the dishwasher water pushes knives against other utensils or the walls of the dishwasher itself. This can dull a knife and the chemicals in the dishwasher can also be harmful to the knives.
  • Use the right tool: After reading the lists of knives above it is clear that there are dozens of knives available with different styles, tasks, shapes and sharpness levels. Use the correct knife for the proper task. Using the right knife is more efficient, too. And remember, a knife is not a can opener, screwdriver, box cutter, or ice pick! Using a knife for anything other than what it was created for is a great way to cause injury.
  • Cutting boards: Using glass or granite cutting boards can be harmful to the blades of a knife. That is why it is best to use bamboo, wood or plastic cutting boards. This will create less damage to the sharp blades and will increase the lifespan of your knife.
  • Proper storage: It is important to store knives in a clean dry storage area. Damp areas can create rust and harm your knives. Knife kits or racks are the best areas to store knives.

With all of this new found knowledge you should already feel like an expert in the kitchen! I hope you found this blog post informational and your kitchen experiences can be safe and efficient with the help from proper tools and tips. Thanks for reading!

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Chef Todd
Coborn’s, Inc. Executive Chef and Retail Merchandiser

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